Nepal, PRAN and the World Bank

I was head-hunted by the World Bank to go to Nepal after finishing at the Aga Khan Foundation. After some confusion to do with the period that the AKF required for notice to leave, Carmen Malena took the position of coordinator for the PRAN (Programme for Accountability in Nepal) for six months until December 2009 and I started Jan 2010 for two years.

The PRAN was a new kind of project for the World Bank – they had run one pilot in slightly different circumstances in Cambodia. It was designed to have 4 Nepali partner organisations – one of which was to make grants and required a particular kind of WB Grant Agreement, and three of which were required to provide services (in training, data collection, and monitoring) and these required a different set of WB contracts. The idea behind the programme was that citizens would be helped through Nepali NGOs to understand the ways in which the government was accountable to them, and once so understood, would seek their due entitlements from the Government.

It was intended to work through Nepali NGOs, and considerable time was spent in identifying the right NGOs and putting them through the due diligence process of the WB. This process failed twice and delayed the start of the programme considerably. Then, once the organisations had been contracted it was found that the Nepali CSOs had to front the initial start up costs, and could only be paid by the Bank once certain milestones had been achieved. Since few Nepali CSOs have deep reserves of funds, this proved very troublesome, and produced the ludicrous situation of Nepali CSOs advancing money for a World Bank programme. It seemed astonishing to me that the World Bank could not (a) see the unreasonableness of this approach, and (b) could not change the rules to accommodate the Nepali reality. A number of people told me that this was a fault in the World Bank, that it could not easily find a modus vivendi with smaller CSOs, but all agreed that the Bank would not be able to amend its procedures.

I mention this because the programme almost falied before it had started because of the difficulties of the World Bank, and I was in danger of being fired for pointing this out.

The design of the PRAN had one organisation, ProPublic identifying worthwhile and committed CSOs which were interested in this new field of social accountability, and training them in what it entailed. Such organisatons were then passed over to another organisation to provide grants to them to allow them to practice the training they had received. A third organisation provided the literature and the networking to back up the training and the grants, and a fourth organisation monitored progress.

As with many CSOs, their initial thought was service delivery. Once it was explained to them that this was not a question of the CSO delivering services, but the CSO helping the citizens hold the government accountable for the services that it had NOT delivered, and they had absorbed this, they found there was considerable room for the project in Nepal. In many cases citizens, particularly illiterate citizens from the lower castes, often did not know what services they were entitled to. Once the CSOs had done their research and had found this out (for example, pensions, school scholarships, free fertilizer), the citizens were (a) astonished, and (b) angry that they had not been told about this. They asked how they could get what was meant to be theirs by law, and the CSOs educated them about budgets, local government respnsibilities and local government plans. The CSO also trained them in tactics to use with local government to make sure they got hold of the information they needed to plead their case (e.g. access to annual budgets of the local council, access to procurement regulations and decisions.

The World Bank was very keen to make sure that the programme did not encourage a confrontational approach, even when the citizens were angry about being cheated out of their entitlements. At the same time the cultural habits of most Nepalese were not to confront those guilty of cheating them and stealing their entitlements, but to make it clear to them that they were aware that this had ahppened, and that they would not allow it a second time.

As can be imagined, this project required a lot of preparation of the citizens, a complete cycle of discovery as citizens learnt of their entitlements, and then learnt that in many cases they had been stolen, and then decided to make sure that they would not allow it a second time. The project therefore required a considerable period of practising what they had learnt n order to see wherther the social accountability practices would have real impact on the lives of poor people. Unfortunately the 3 year project started one year late, had considerable admnistrative delays caused by inefficiencies in the bank’s processes, and by the time that I left i could see progress, but not defnable impact. The project continued after my time, but with a different focus on Public Financial Management.



  • 32 CSOs had been instructed in how social accountability worked and had passed on such instruction to smaller CBOs, and even to citizens groups, who understood how they had been cheated and were aware of what the needed to do to change the system
  • Substantial numbers of citizens had been made aware of their entitlements and the ways that they could access them.
  • Training materials were developed which helped CSOs understand the relevant laws that they needed to use to enforce social accountability practices.
  • Over 20 trainers had been trained in the Nepal Staff Training College to educate civil servants about social accountability and responsibility.



Source Book for 21 Social Accountability Tools in Nepal
edited by Richard Holloway for PRAN 2012 – also available in Nepali

Social Accountability in Action
edited by Richard Holloway for PRAN. 2013

9 x 5 min DVDs being training videos on the main tools for Social Accountability in Nepal
Produced by Mohan Rai from ideas by Richard Holloway – in Nepali with English sub-titles


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